Bossert, the White House homeland security adviser, at a news
briefing at the White House.Thomson
The US homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, sent a memo around
the White House urging staff members to focus on the positive
aspects of the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico while President
Donald Trump used Twitter to address the problem in his own way.
Bossert’s memo, leaked to the news
website Axios and published by Mike Allen, stated that
search-and-rescue teams had combed the entire island, searching
more than 2,600 structures and saving 840 people.
According to Bossert, aid workers had restored partial capability
to 59 hospitals, but improving the distribution of essential
commodities and access to power remained “major focuses right
Besides the update on the material conditions on the ground in
Puerto Rico, after three straight hurricanes racked the island,
Bossert’s memo urged a cheery media narrative that starkly
clashed with Trump’s own comments on the situation.
“I hope to turn the corner on our public communications,” Bossert
wrote, acknowledging the White House’s issues in
communicating its response to the hurricane in what many have begun to
compare to George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in
“I recommend that today and tomorrow we use the general theme of
supporting the governor and standing with the people of Puerto
Rico to get them food, water, shelter, and emergency medical
care,” Bossert wrote.
Bossert then laid out a plan to “pivot hopefully to a theme of
stabilizing” the situation with temporary housing and increasing
the reach of power and commodities on Monday and Tuesday and then
to “start a theme of recovery planning for the bright future that
lies ahead for Puerto Rico.”
Guard troops arriving at Barrio Obrero in the Santurce district
of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 24 to distribute water and
food among those affected by Hurricane Maria.AP Photo/Carlos Giusti
“Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the
need for reactionary efforts,” wrote Bossert, who seemed to
provide officials with a talking point for future discussions:
“The storm caused these problems, not our response to it.”
While Bossert’s memo reflects a carefully coordinated and genial
recovery effort with Puerto Rico, Trump used Twitter to attack
Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
Cruz had told media on Friday that if Trump did not ramp up
relief efforts, Puerto Rico could see “something close to a
Trump responded on
Twitter criticizing the “poor leadership ability by the Mayor
of San Juan” and other Puerto Ricans who he said “want everything
to be done for them.”
Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan speaking with the media on
Trump dismissed Cruz’s criticisms of his response by saying she
had “been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”
Trump has since praised Puerto Rico’s governor on Twitter while
blaming what he called “Fake News or
politically motivated ingrates” for the negative coverage of
his administration’s efforts.
While more than half a dozen US Navy ships have been sent to the
island, along with more than 5,000 Marines and 10,000 other
federal workers, reporters on the island say efforts have been
uncoordinated and ineffective.
“It’s important to sound the alarm, to put the story out there,
so that every time someone says, ‘Aid is getting through,’ we can
show that it may be here, but it is not getting to the most
vulnerable,” a Puerto Rican woman told CNN’s Leyla
Trump is due to arrive in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, where thousands
are still cut off from communications and desperate for food,
water, and other essentials.